2008 | 1 | 255-267
Article title

John Courtney Murray and the Orthodoxy of Freedom: An Application to Economic Life

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Sirico undertakes an attempt to apply argumentation supporting John C. Murray’s religious freedom to economic activity. Against all semblances, economic freedom displays plenty of features common with the freedom of creed: “also here, the consciousness, choice, and human nature play crucial roles in the moral drama of social life”. The two individual freedoms are crucial for the operation of free society. Murray founded his teaching on two principles deeply set in the Catholic tradition, namely the principle of freedom and the principle of subsidiarity. The two are consolidated by two ideas of equally deep roots: ‘the principle of consent’ and ‘free institutions’. The first of these has its source in medieval monarchy, when to rule the king needed the consent of his subjects (or at least lack of their resistance). ‘Free institutions’ on the other hand are the foundation of the division between the society and the state, with the latter being markedly limited in its functions.An example of application of these principles to religious freedom is the 1st Amendment to U.S. Constitution. As Murray has noticed, this amendment does not answer any “eternal question about the nature of truth of freedom, or the way the spiritual order of human life should follow […]. [It] does not need expressing religious consent, but only the guarantee of rational civil obedience.” In this position, a vast benefit for the Church is the fact that the area of its operation lies beyond the competencies of the state which endows it with a broad freedom of religion.Why can this system be applied also for economic activity? It is so, because much like the internal realm of the human, also business activity must operate in the conditions of freedom to be able to come to full fruition. The role of the state is to ensure conditions for good-will cooperation between free subjects, which will be beneficial for the society as a whole. Therefore the market, not unlike the constitutional framework of the state, “is not a creed but a condition for peace”.
  • St. Mary’s Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan
  • Mont Pelegrin Society
  • Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty
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